My Comedy Hero: Jen Brister on Victoria Wood
- Brian Donaldson
- 26 October 2018
As this self-dubbed 'stand-up comedian, writer, actor, dickhead' takes her Meaningless show on tour, she picks the northern comic who straddled the mainstream and alternative scene as her comic icon
I can remember the first time I saw Victoria Wood on television. I was a child, so I wasn't analysing her style or worrying what a woman was doing on television with her own show. I just remember that I laughed. A lot. I wanted to watch more, so I obsessively recorded every episode of Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, and memorised every hilarious sketch and routine which I would recite back to any poor sod who would listen.
To say that Victoria Wood had a huge influence on my life would be an understatement. I can honestly say that she is the main reason that I decided I wanted to be a comedian; that I even thought it was an option as a career. Her comic style was uniquely northern, acutely observed with a natural rhythm and melody to it that had me in stitches. All of her characters were three-dimensional and completely recognisable, and even the spikiest of them was injected with such warmth that you couldn't help but fall in love with them.
I'm not alone in my obsession with all things Victoria Wood, her comedy transcended both mainstream and alternative scenes. She was loved by so many both young and old, her comedy was fresh, honest, brilliantly observed and downright hilarious. But despite her mainstream appeal she was also the consummate outsider and gave the oddballs, misfits and failures of this world a voice. So what if she appealed to 'old people?' As a queer misfit myself, I felt like she was talking directly to me and I loved her for that.
I never got to meet Victoria Wood, although living in north London for so many years I would spot her now and again and have to stop myself from hurling myself at her with a torrent of 'I LOVE YOUs!' The last time I saw her was in Foyles Bookshop a year before she died. I followed her for at least five minutes, hiding behind a shelf of paperbacks and spying on her. I remember thinking, 'go and tell her how amazing she is! Go! Do it now!' But I didn't because that's not how I wanted to meet my hero. I thought, 'no, I'll wait till we meet as peers and I can tell her just how important and inspiring and defining her comedy has always been to me'.
And now we'll never meet and I feel so sad, not for my lost encounter but for all the plays, scripts, stand-up, sketches and characters that I'll never get to see. But I'm so grateful to her and for the breadth of her creativity that today I can sit in her company for hours and hours and remember her brilliance and laugh and sometimes cry.
Jen Brister: Meaningless is on tour until Sat 5 Jan.